Archive for August, 2011

Missing the beach

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Austria is a landlocked country.  I’ve never even lived in a landlocked state before, so this is a strange concept for me.  Growing up, we went to the beach every summer.  When I was little, my grandmother had a place in Ocean City, Maryland, and then when we got older, we’d go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina or to Cape May in New Jersey.  As an adult, I’ve been to Cancun, the Bahamas, Hawaii and Florida, in addition to trips back to Ocean City.  The beach is regular fixture in my summers, and occasionally even in my falls, winters and springs.  It’s an important part of my childhood memories, and a love that is shared with my entire family.  Only a few years of my life have passed without a trip to the beach, and nearly all of those were for specific reasons (we didn’t go the summer that B was born, for example).


Waking the baby

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

I laugh when I read information about how much little kids and babies are “supposed” to sleep.  My children never got those memos.  When he was a baby, Benjamin hardly ever slept for more than 2 or 3 hours in a row.  He’d sleep for a few hours at night, and then he’d get up, I’d feed him, and Dan & I would take turns walking with him for an hour or two (or more) until he finally went to sleep, and then he got up 2 or 3 hours later and we did it all again.  This isn’t abnormal for a newborn’s first few months, but this went on through and beyond his first birthday (and it had gotten old well before that).  He started sleeping through the night reliably sometime between 18 months and 2 years, but he didn’t nap for more than 20 minutes at a time until this past spring, after we moved here.  Now, he’s a sleeping champ — sleeps about 9 hours at night, and another hour or two (sometimes more!) during the early afternoon.


Telling time

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Today, in my German class, we worked on telling time.  (Actually, we worked on reporting the time and understanding it when someone else tells us — the ability to actually tell time was assumed.)

There are a variety of conventions used, most of which I found to be fairly complicated — some are used by all German speakers, but a few were specific to Austria.  What I found particularly interesting is that after (and including) quarter past the hour, they orient everything to the hour that is coming, rather than the hour that has passed.  For example, you’d say it’s “half eleven” when it’s 10:30.  You’d say it’s “three quarters six” at 5:45 (i.e., three quarters of the hour towards 6:00).  At 8:15, you could either say a quarter after 8:00 or “quarter nine” (a quarter of an hour towards 9:00).

As our teacher said, after a quarter past the hour, that hour is history — old news.  They look ahead to what’s coming, not what’s already happened.  They also ask the time (literally) as “How late is it?”  When I consider that the Austrians are the most punctual people I’ve ever been around, this all seems to make a lot of sense.  They aren’t stuck on where they’re coming from, they’re looking to where they’re going.


Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I know that it’s supposed to be impolite to discuss finances, but, in the interest of frankness, money has been pretty tight here lately.  Financially, things should be better here than they were at home, but we weren’t counting on carrying the expense of our condo at home for as long as we have.  (In retrospect, I have no idea WHY we weren’t counting on that, but we weren’t.)  We’ve burned through our liquid savings and used up the line of credit extended to us by the bank here in Austria.  It had gotten to the point where we planning to quit grocery shopping and see if we could live off of just what we had on our kitchen shelves between now and Dan’s next pay day (which only comes once a month).



Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

I speak one language.  I took 7 years of middle school/high school/college French, and my comprehension is ok, but my ability to speak is pretty poor.  I understand some Spanish, just from having heard a lot of it (and because you can make educated guesses on a lot of the nouns if your French vocabulary is decent).  I’m just starting to learn German.  I can sign the alphabet in American Sign Language and I can code in a variety of programming languages.  That’s it.  Actually, I feel pretty good about it.


Double translation

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I knew, of course, that there would be a language barrier when I moved here.  (The fact that the only thing I knew how to say in German was “Gesundheit” before getting on the plane was a small clue.)  I’m really very fortunate:  as far as I can tell, most people here study at least some English at school.  Under the age of about 40, the vast majority of people I encounter do speak at least a little English.  But, I didn’t know that there would be an additional barrier — the fact that I speak American English and not British English, which is what they study.


Super helper

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Today began my third week of German class.  I go three days per week, and the first four times I had class my mom was here, so getting there was relatively easy (for me).  All I had to do was get her set up with the things she needed for the boys, get myself ready, and get there.  Travelling alone is pretty easy — I can take stairs or escalator, I can sit in any open seat on the train (or even stand, in a relatively small space), I don’t tend to drop a lot of things, and I walk pretty fast (especially for someone fairly short-legged).



Sunday, August 14th, 2011

The holocaust is the proverbial “elephant in room” here in Austria.  This is where it happened, not very long ago.  There are people who are here who lived through it.  It isn’t abstract and it isn’t distant.  I’m not an expert, and I don’t claim or pretend to really understand what it must be like for those who were touched more directly by it.  But I am finding myself more affected by it, more aware of it, living here than I ever have been before.


Sleepover Saturday

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Last week, when my mom was visiting, she and Benjamin had a sleepover in the living room.  It made me a little jealous, so tonight, Benjamin and I are having one too.  Although I don’t know how well either of us will sleep, I’m really looking forward to the chance to curl up with my wonderful baby (who already isn’t really a baby) and have a camp out/sleepover.

It’s already been a great day — we took the boys to see their first movie since we’ve been here (Liam’s first ever).  It was really fun, although we probably won’t repeat it for a while.  (Liam got charged full kid’s ticket price of 9 Euro, making it a rather expensive adventure.)  I think we’ll probably wait to take Liam again until he’ll actually appreciate it and not sleep through most of it.  That said, of the four children in the movie theater, he was by far not the most disruptive, so it was a success.

A movie and a sleepover in the same day — sounds like a good Saturday!

Minding my own business

Friday, August 12th, 2011

People in Austria are very forthcoming with their disapproval — be it stares, scowls or comments.  This seems to be especially true when it comes to kids and dogs.  If you’re out with a dog or a small child, it’s open season for opinions.  This is actually relatively true at home, too (more so with kids than with dogs) and it starts as soon as you’re visibly pregnant — other people (typically, but not always, women older than yourself) will confront you with advice about everything from your beverage of choice to your choice of footwear to prognostications on the sex of the baby.  I remember the frustration of being confronted by complete strangers about my choices or behavior when I was pregnant with Benjamin, and thinking that it would go away once he was born.  It didn’t — and now it’s followed me to Europe!